Robert Todd Lincoln

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Robert Todd Lincoln

Robert Todd Lincoln (August 1, 1843 - July 26, 1926) was the first son of Abraham Lincoln and Mary Ann Todd. Born in Springfield, Illinois, United States, he was the only one of President Lincoln's four sons to reach adulthood.

Robert Lincoln graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy, then studied at Harvard University from 1861 to 1864, following which he enrolled in Harvard Law School. However, he did not graduate and in 1865 joined the Union Army. He held the rank of Captain, serving in the American Civil War as part of General Ulysses S. Grant's staff.

Following his father's assassination, in May of 1865 he, his brother Thomas (Tad) Lincoln (1853-1871), and their mother moved to Chicago where Robert completed his law studies at the University of Chicago (although not the university presently known by that name). He was admitted to the bar on February 25, 1867. The following year he married Mary Eunice Harlan (1846-March 31, 1937), the daughter of Senator James Harlan and Ann Eliza Peck of Mount Pleasant, Iowa. They had two daughters and one son:

Lincoln began legal proceedings against his mother Mary in 1875 which resulted in her commitment to an insane asylum in Batavia, Illinois. She was released after a three-month stay. The commitment proceedings lead to a profound estrangement between Lincoln and his mother; they were never reconciled.

In 1877 he turned down President Rutherford B. Hayes' offer to appoint him Assistant Secretary of State, but did accept an appointment to become the US Secretary of War from 1881 to 1885, serving under Presidents James Garfield and Chester A. Arthur. In addition, he served as the US ambassador to the United Kingdom from 1889 to 1893 under President Benjamin Harrison after which he returned to private business as the President and Chairman of the Board of the Pullman Palace Car Company where he worked until his retirement in 1922. He made his last public appearance at the dedication ceremony in Washington, D.C. for his father's memorial on May 30th of that year.

Lincoln died at his Manchester, Vermont home on July 26, 1926 and was later interred in Arlington National Cemetery next to his wife Mary and their son Jack, who died of blood poisoning at the age of 16 in London, England.

There is an odd coincidence in regard to Robert Todd Lincoln and presidential assassinations. The night his father was shot, Lincoln was invited to accompany his parents to the theater, but declined. When President Garfield was shot in a Washington, D.C. train station in 1881, he was present at Garfield's invitation. When President William McKinley was shot at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York in 1901, Lincoln was present at McKinley's invitation. However, he was not an actual eyewitness to any of these assassinations. After McKinley's death, Lincoln let it be known that he wanted no further invitations from any US president, as three of them had invited him to be present at their assassinations.

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Preceded by:
Alexander Ramsey
United States Secretary of War
Succeeded by:
William C. Endicott

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